Monday, January 16, 2023

Military bothered by Canada's absence from American-British-Australian security pact

Military bothered by Canada's absence from American-British-Australian security pact

Published Jan. 15, 2023 

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. A report commissioned by the Department of National Defence found that while some Canadians still have a mostly positive view of the military, their pride in a strong institution has dropped away.

OTTAWA - There are concerns at the highest levels of the Canadian Armed Forces that this country won't have access to the same cutting-edge military technology as its closest allies because it is not part of a security pact between Australia, Britain and the United States.

The trilateral treaty, nicknamed "AUKUS" after the three countries involved, was announced in September 2021 in what was a bid to counter China's growing military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Canada has growing economic and security interests.

While much of the attention around the pact has centred on American and British plans to provide nuclear submarine technology to Australia, Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie told The Canadian Press in a recent interview that the arrangement is about much more.


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Auchterlonie is the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command. In that role, he is responsible for managing dozens of military operations at home and abroad while closely monitoring the threats and challenges facing Canada and the Armed Forces.

“The fact is that (nuclear submarine) technology has existed for a while, so the sharing of that is not a big deal,” he said.

“The issue is when you start talking about advanced technology in terms of the artificial-intelligence domain, machine learning, quantum, all of these things that really matter moving forward. Those are conversations we need to be in on. And the issue is: Why are we not included in this? Is it resistance to get involved? Is it policy restrictions that we have? Or are we just not going to invest? That's the question. So it is a significant concern.”

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The federal Liberal government has not said why Canada is not part of AUKUS, or even whether it was invited, with Defence Minister Anita Anand’s office again sidestepping the question last week.

Anand's spokesman Daniel Minden instead referred to Canada’s participation in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes Australia, Britain, the U.S. and New Zealand, as well as the North American Aerospace Defence Command and the NATO military alliance.

“Through the Five Eyes and our bilateral partnerships, we will continue to work with our closest allies to keep Canadians safe,” Minden said in an email.

The Australian High Commission and U.S. Embassy in Ottawa referred questions to their respective capitals. The British High Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Some analysts have previously questioned whether Canada’s absence is an indication of impatience over Ottawa’s perceived failure to get tough with China.

The government has in recent months have tried to change its image on China in a variety of ways, including a mutual ban [US and Canada] on Huawei technology in Canada’s 5G network, displaying new restrictions on foreign ownership in critical minerals and the announcement of an Indo-Pacific strategy.

That strategy is intending to signal a marked shift in federal policy and priorities toward the region given its growing importance to Canada’s economy and security. Especially now that China is “an increasingly threatening global power.”

Many of those actions, such as the Huawei ban, came only after frustration from our allies over long frustrating delays. The critics are saying the government still is reluctant to take a hard line with Beijing.

Auchterlonie praised the Indo-Pacific strategy, which includes promises to deploy more naval warships and other military assets to the region while building closer defence relationships with a number of different countries.

“The strategy we have just come up with, and the fact that we have now blocked (Chinese) companies from investing in our  North, has been a positive step for Canada, finally a real positive step,” he added. “I think we recognize the challenge we're facing.”

He also reported no meaningful change when it comes to Canada’s participation in the Five Eyes alliance.

American officials warned for years that they may withhold sensitive intelligence if  Trudeau and his Liberals did not take a stronger position on China, particularly during the Trump administration and as the Liberal government repeatedly stalled a decision on Huawei and 5G, wondering why they would do that?

“I work with my Five Eyes partners throughout the globe, and I haven't seen a change in terms of the information-sharing piece,” Auchterlonie said. “So that is good.”

He nonetheless expressed  significant concern about Canada's political absence in AUKUS, while acknowledging as a military officer under Trudeau, he wont be able to express such a sentiment.

“This is probably not my lane, but the fact is: What do I do for a living?” he said.

“I am the operational side of the Armed Forces. Therefore,  I am concerned. Do I want to be involved with our closest allies in things? Yes naturally, I do. Absolutely. And I think it's critical given where you see technology moving. No more waiting, Canada urgently needs to be part of that.”

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